The following is an excerpt from Beatrice Schreiber’s experience as a WorldTeach Volunteer in Ladakh, India in 2017. This is part one of two.
I was dropped off by the WorldTeach India team in Kuri, in the Nubra Valley region of Ladakh, on the morning of my 8th day in India. Kuri is a small village of 40 homes that is located along the famous Silk Route that connected India with China. We were welcomed at the Government Middle School like His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) himself, with much joy, anticipation, and expectation. The teachers, all 28 children, ranging from ages four to 14, and their parents were lined up and dressed in their Sunday’s best to greet us with colorful, silk flowers, smoking incense, and the traditional white long scarf that is put around your neck to give blessings. I ended up with four scarves, which became unbearably hot in the sweltering sun. Despite that, it took me some time to dare taking them off. I certainly did not want to look disrespectful or make a bad first impression.
After everyone got a good look of us, we quickly moved to the very simply decorated head master’s office, which also serves as a meeting/lunch room for the teachers. There, we were served sweet milk tea with biscuits, which we awkwardly enjoyed as we stared at each other and tried to understand what was going to happen next. I met some of the teachers and we started some cordial small talk about school and attending individuals, which included me introducing myself. I was also reminded that there will not be any school for the next 4 days because of the upcoming teachings of the HHDL. This was the number one priority for everyone and educating the children will have to wait.
I was greeted by the school children, parents, and teachers with white Khatas around my neck, which is a gesture of gratitude and provides blessings. Little did I know how much I would need them.
When my friends left to drop off Jessica (another WorldTeach volunteer) in the next village of Charassa, I was truly overcome with sadness, just like a little child who was dropped at her elementary school for the very first time. I did not know what was going to happen and how I will be able to cope with all the new things that would come my way. I realized from the start that communicating with anybody aside from the headmaster would be very difficult as the adult’s English was quite rudimentary. The children’s English was even more basic. I had my work cut out for me. I was scared and excited at the same time. Will I live up to the expectations?! This was the first time a volunteer was placed in any school in Nubra Valley. The future of other volunteers and the reputation of Voygr (the WorldTeach India partner) and WorldTeach was in our hands. I felt the weight on my shoulders.
But no time to waste on “silly” feelings (these will catch up with me later anyways) because I was immediately called to give my first class in “Introduction to Computers.” It turns out that the school has had three new computers for the past year, which have only been used for the program Paint. I would have to get Windows activated and start teaching the basics of navigating through the various programs as well as MS Word to children and teachers alike. Of course, there would be no internet. Not that anybody was missing it, aside from me of course.
Prayer flags and khatas abound around the high mountains in Ladakh.
We will catch up with Beatrice’s teaching experience in the next post.